Israel on Wednesday freed an Islamist Hamas lawmaker it had detained for five months and expelled him to the West Bank, after an Israeli court ruled that he was not permitted to continue living in Jerusalem.
The residency permits of Mohammad Abu Tir and three other East Jerusalem Hamas politicians were revoked in 2006 following the group's victory in parliamentary elections when they trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
Abu Tir said his expulsion was "painful. Israel aims to evict the people of Jerusalem. Israel does not want to see Arabs in Jerusalem. They want to Judaise the city," he told reporters.
The other three Hamas politicians -- two legislators and a former minister -- have lived in a tent at the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in Jerusalem since July.
"The minute we exit the tent, we will be jailed and expelled," said Ahmad Attoun, one of the three.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in a 1967 war. It annexed East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state, and calls all of the city its own indivisible capital, a move not recognized internationally.
In June of this year, UN human rights expert said Israel's intended aim to expel the four Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to the West Bank could constitute a war crime.
Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the move was part of a Israeli push to remove Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
"These actions, if carried out, would violate international law, with certain actions potentially amounting to war crimes under international humanitarian law," Falk said in a statement.
"Forcibly transferring these individuals would constitute serious violations of Israel's legal obligations. At the same time, the current threats should be viewed as part of a larger, extremely worrying pattern of Israeli efforts to drive Palestinians out of East Jerusalem - all of which are illegal under international law," Falk said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now